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What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate...

While Maliki makes a point of distinguishing himself as separate from the Bush Administration, and grumblings start coming out of Washington as to whe

While Maliki makes a point of distinguishing himself as separate from the Bush Administration, and grumblings start coming out of Washington as to whether Maliki is the man for the job, Juan Cole talks to Time about the mixed messages and how it's only setting us further back:

Juan Cole: Maliki is protecting himself by being feisty, showing Iraqis that he is not taking orders from Washington. But he also has a serious policy dispute with the U.S., and a sense of betrayal. They promised him, last summer when they launched the major security offensive to retake Baghdad, that the U.S. would take care of Sunni guerrilla movement in Baghdad before moving against Mahdi Army [the Shi'ite militia of Moqtada al-Sadr, whose stronghold is in Baghdad]. That way, Maliki could to go to the Shi'ite elders in Baghdad and say, you are safe, you no longer need militias and they are a source of discord, so they must be disbanded. But the Americans failed to dislodge the Sunni insurgents, and then they go after the Mahdi army anyway - and that enrages Maliki because it weakens his government in such a way that it could fall.

So Maliki's outrage over attacks on the Mahdi Army are not a matter of principle; it's about the fact that the U.S. hasn't first done what it said it would do, which was to eliminate the threat of the Sunni insurgents in Baghdad. The reason Shi'ite communities believe they need militias is to protect them from the Sunni guerrillas, which they say the government and the U.S. are not doing. And Maliki can't go and tell them to get rid of their militias while they remain vulnerable to attack by Sunni guerrillas. Read on...


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